Charity alive in Philippine funeral homes

Even among companies that look after the dead, charity is alive and well.

The Funeraria Floresco and St. Peter's Funeral Homes are examples of mortuary service providers that have made it part of their corporate mission to arrange free burials for the neglected, the unidentified and the forgotten.

Through their humanitarian programs, the unclaimed bodies of street vagrants, "salvage" or summary execution victims, road accident fatalities, and even aborted foetuses are given a proper, final resting place.

Their act of altruism starts at the hospital morgues where no family member or friend had come for the bodies for weeks or months.

Funeraria Floresco, for example, takes custody of a body from the morgue and keeps it for 60 more days just in case relatives of the dead finally show up, said Jojo Flores, the company manager of the company branch in Malabon City.

If there are still no claimants, the company will spend for the re-embalming of the body and the processing of necessary papers at City Hall in preparation for the burial, Flores told the Inquirer in an interview.

The local government decides which public cemetery has enough space for the burial. And, yes, the bodies are given a final blessing by a priest or pastor, he said.

"I ask our staff to maintain the body's proper condition so that when relatives come, they can still recognise the body," added Andy Flores, Jojo's cousin who manages the Funeraria Floresco branch in Paco, Manila. "As much as possible, we only accept two unclaimed bodies at a time in the shop to avoid causing any stench."

Andy Flores said the company extends the same free service in the case of amputated body parts, which are often left unclaimed for proper disposal by the amputees' families.

At St. Peter's Funeral, meanwhile, the company provides free burial services for babies three months old or below, said staff member Jim Lego.

The small casket actually costs P6,000 to make, but the company gives it for free along along with pickup service from the hospital, he added.

Andy Flores admitted that there were other funeral shops who would get unclaimed bodies from morgues only to sell them to medical schools or students, but his company dare not engage in this nefarious trade "for fear of karma."

As he simply put it: "Mas malaki ang balik (The consequences may be more severe)'' for his 80-year-old company.

As a member of the Philippine Mortuary Association, Funeraria Floresco, particularly its shop in Malabon, also donated 39 coffins for the victims of the May 13 Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela City, he recalled.